Monday, April 29, 2013

Wakefield gets ready for Museums at Night!

To celebrate Museums at Night, Wakefield Museum is planning two events on Friday 17th May

For families:
Come and meet St George!
Museum at Knight!
Come and hear our Knight tell the tale of George and the Dragon as you have never heard it before!

Interactive storytelling and workshops for children aged 3– 12 years old.
Fancy Dress encouraged, so come on all you budding princesses, knights (and dragons!)

The Knight will be running the session twice: 6 - 6:30pm and 7 - 7:30pm - starting in the Children’s Library and followed by a museum trail and craft activity.
Booking is essential on 01924 302700 or e-mail 

For adults:

Flatulence and Phlegm: cooking with herbs and salad in seventeenth century England
A fun food talk (with tastings) with the wonderfully entertaining Annie Gray!

Annie Gray will deliver a fun and informative talk (with food tastings) at Wakefield Museum, where you will find out more about cooking in seventeenth century England. During our last chat with Annie, there was a suggestion of Tarragon Cream being on the menu, so don't come expecting just a boring lettuce leaf to try!

This event is free and open to anyone over 18 (starting at 6pm prompt). Booking is essential. Call  (0113) 343 1910 or email to book.

A Seventeenth Century Salad

A Meat Melon!
Annie Gray is an independent historian who works as a researcher, as a costumed interpreter and a consultant to historic sites looking to maximise the potential of their kitchens and dining areas.  
She pops up on TV regularly - recently seen cooking with the Hairy Bikers!

See the events tab at the top of this page for more!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Roman Gems from Castleford

Over the years, excavations at Castleford have produced some real gems. Ian Marshman a PhD student from the School of Archaeology & Ancient History at the University of Leicester recently came to examine 6 Roman engraved gemstones from the site. Gems like these were worn in finger rings and used to seal important documents and provisions, and were highly valued objects to the people who wore them. The stones themselves would have travelled thousands of miles to end up in Castleford, with some coming from as far away as India and Sri Lanka.

These 6 gems will form part of Ian’s survey of these objects from right across Roman Britain, whose total at present stands at well over 1,900 artefacts! He hopes to be able to study the way people chose different images for their seals in different parts of the Roman province, and how this might have changed across time. Every gem was someone’s personal seal, and as such they can tell us a lot about the ancient people who owned them.

Two of the Castleford gems have engravings unique in Roman Britain. The first is a red jasper engraved with the image of a hunting dog seizing its quarry (possibly a hare, but this part of the gem is chipped). Hunting was a popular pastime for wealthy people in the Roman period, and an image of a fine hound like this would have highlighted its owner’s interest in this prestige activity. The second gem still remains in its silver ring and is engraved with the image of a Roman style lamp. Lamps like this were not very common in Roman Britain, because they required imported olive oil for fuel. It is possible that this ring came from the Mediterranean region where such lamps were commonplace, and where it would have been understood as a symbol of hope.
Castleford's Roman gems.  See if you can spot any of these tiny objects on display in The Forum when it opens later this year
The other Castleford gems are no less interesting. One shows a parrot, a bird which originated, like some of the gems, in far off India. The Roman’s associated parrots with Bacchus, the god of wine, but they were also kept as exotic pets by the wealthy. Another gem, a pale blue chalcedony, shows the king of the gods, Jupiter. The only glass ‘gem’ from Castleford is also interesting for it is moulded with a crude image of a warship full of soldiers carrying shields…did this depict the invasion of Britain back in AD 43? Perhaps the best of the gems so far uncovered at Castleford shows a Satyr (a creature part man-part goat) using a bunch of grapes to tease a dog, who leaps up to try to devour them. This playful and naturalistic scene is incredibly finely cut on a carnelian gem less than 1 cm across. Tiny gems like these remind us of the great skill of craftsmen in the Roman period, and provide us with a tangible link with the ancient people who wore them on their fingers everyday.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Siren - or artist's muse?

Two 2,000 year old stone carvings of mythical siren figures (a mixture of woman and bird), from  excavations in Roman Castleford 1974-83 have been the subject of an unusual request recently. They have inspired Castleford-born art student Mikey Cook, to take casts of them, which will then feature in his final year show at Glasgow School of Art.

These Roman magnesian limestone carvings (you can just make out a pair of bird's legs and hands holding musical pipes) have inspired the work
Artist, Mikey Cook, made silicone moulds from the sirens, to take back to Glasgow and cast in a polyurethane foam for his work.

Mikey creates casts of the Roman sirens
One of our more unusual requests, but fascinating to witness!  

The original siren statues will be on display in The Forum, Castleford, when it opens this autumn.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ackworth Hoard for Wakefield

Wakefield Council’s campaign to keep the Ackworth Hoard in the district is a success thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The Ackworth Hoard - coins and a gold ring buried in a pot
HLF has awarded £25,500 towards the acquisition of the treasure and a programme of associated activities so that people can learn about its importance to Wakefield and Yorkshire. 

The Ackworth Hoard was found buried in a garden in Ackworth last year inside a pot made locally in Wrenthorpe. It is made up of 52 gold and 539 silver coins and a single gold ring. It was declared as treasure by the West Yorkshire coroner last March and valued at £54,492.Dating to the Civil War, it is the only hoard known from the Wakefield district and has a distinct Royalist association.

Further support includes £49,000 raised from national funding, £27,000 from the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant and £10,000 from the Headley Trust.

Over £2,500 has also been reached through local fundraising including Ackworth Parish Council donating £500., and the Council is providing financial support to fund the gap to reach the £54,500 needed to save the items for Yorkshire.
Gold finger ring inscribed 'When you see this, remember me'
Cllr David Dagger, Cabinet Member for Culture said: “We are delighted to have secured The Hoard for display at Pontefract Museum. These items are a real part of this district's rich history and we are overwhelmed by the fantastic response from the public to save the Hoard for Yorkshire.

“The support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the generous donation from Ackworth Parish Council has meant that we can reach our total to keep the treasure in the district for future generations to enjoy.”

The Ackworth Hoard will be on temporary display at Pontefract Museum from June to August. The museum will be recruiting a team of volunteers to work on the Hoard before it goes on permanent display in 2014/15 as part of a redevelopment of the museum, part funded by the Arts Council England.

The Council launched a campaign last October to raise the funds needed to keep the Hoard in Yorkshire through national funding and appealing for public donation.

The Hoard represents an important period in local and national history. It dates from the Civil War and was probably buried for safe keeping between 1645 and 1646, around the same time as the second siege of Pontefract Castle. The presence of the gold finger ring also makes it very unusual, giving it a more domestic aspect than most of the Hoards which contain only coins. It is inscribed with the words “When this you see, remember me”.

For a fuller description of the hoard, see the Pontefract Museum page.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spectacular Spaces at Wakefield One

Have a look at our two new display cases in the upper atrium of Wakefield One. They are a chance to show off some of the bigger and more robust objects from Wakefield’s brilliant museum collections. A delivery cart used by Wakefield printers John Lindley and Son during the 1920s was installed on Wednesday and a flurry of typewriters is forecast for the other case early next week. These new cases will complement the case already on display in the lower atrium which is currently showing off a beautiful Victorian printing press. All three are based on the theme of printing.

The cart on display at Wakefield One
Lindley’s handcart was used to deliver orders to customers, invoice books, letter headings and bindings.  The business started in Thompson's Yard in 1924 and moved to Almshouse Lane in 1932, later moving again to George Street in 1980, when the premises of Lindleys were demolished to build the Riding Shopping Centre.

Staff from John Lindley, printers, with their two handcarts, in front of the office in the 1920s

Handcarts were a common sight on the streets of Wakefield and beyond for much of the first half of the 1900s, before vans became more affordable and reliable. Lindley’s had two until the 1940s.